What is the head in music?
A lot of times you’ll hear musicians encourage one another to ‘take the head’ or ‘play the head’ or ‘go back to the head’ or ‘finish with the head’ etc…
It’s actually a term you’re most likely to find in jazz. And it means the melody of the song, also known as the tune.
Typically in jazz, you’ll play the main melody (the head) of the song and then band members will take a solo where they make stuff up. It’s a sort of on-the-spot composing called improvisation.
Once you’ve had your various solos, you’ll usually play the main melody (the head) again to finish off the song.
So let’s do some translation:
– ‘Hey man, take the head...’ = ‘Hello colleague, I would sincerely like for you to play the melody in this upcoming song.‘
– ‘Hey man, double the head with me…‘ = ‘Esteemed bandmate, please play the melody of this song in unison with me. If I start harmonising, just keep playing the normal melody underneath me.’
– ‘Hey man, back to the head!’ – ‘Valued associate, the soloing is now over. Go back to the melody .’
One last thing, sometimes people will tap their heads like this….or point to them like this. This just means, ‘play the head, go back to the melody’.
Why do people do this? Well, it looks cooler than shouting instructions at your bandmates on stage and, if the band is loud, you don’t have to worry about people being unable to hear you.
Next time you listen to some jazz, see if you can identify the main melody…and then notice where it stops being played and the solos begin…and then notice again when it comes back in at the end.